Finding the source of joy

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One of my favorite stories, which I know I have told before, is of a woman who had made an appointment with her attorney in order to change her will. She was a single woman who had never dated and thus never married or had children. She led a successful business that allowed her to establish several endowments to various charities, including her church. When she had made nearly all of her changes to her will she created one more stipulation. "When I die," she told her attorney, "I do not want any men to serve as my pallbearers."

The attorney documented the request but he could not help but ask why. Her prompt and icy response was "No man took me out when I was alive; no man is going to when I'm dead."

Needless to say, joy was not the theme song of her life. Proverbs 17:22 reads, "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." This proverb carries multiple applications, but one is an understanding that the condition of the heart makes a huge difference in addressing the ups and downs of life.

We each live every day with the choice of taking the good medicine of a joyful heart or fostering the attitudes that crush our bones. The key is knowing the source of the good medicine. The woman who changed her will discovered that joy cannot be found in success or relationships, and she became bitter. Perhaps she waited until her career was lined up just right before she began looking for that relationship she was wanting. Maybe she spent her life waiting for Mr. Right to show up. Or maybe, no matter how hard she tried, her relationships just did not work out.

Relationships, jobs and hobbies are just distributors of joy. They are not the source. The difference between the distributor and the source is the difference between a bottle of water and the start of a freshwater spring. They are both water, but the one has been filtered, bottled, refrigerated and marketed. The other started out fresh and cold. The one is a resource, the other is the source. The Lord is the source of joy, while everything else is a resource. Our hearts need the source that is good, not a resource that saps our strength.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father and serves as the associate pastor at the First Baptist Church in Jackson.

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